Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Simmons Leadership Conference - This Saturday

Last year, we attended this marvelous event for the first time. It was a memorable day, leaving us contemplating the unusual life of anthropologist Louise Leakey and the miraculous survival of Gloria Estefan.

The conference is built on a carefully crafted agenda that blends a bit of entertainment with a lot of education. It's a day of girl power, inspiration and best of all - recharging the professional batteries.

This year's lineup will not disappoint. The headliner is the legendary Diane Keaton. Much-honored business executive Maxine Clark, CEO of Build-a-Bear Workshop, is the opening keynote. Last year, Clark was named one of The 25 Most Influential People in Retailing by Chain Store Age. In 2008, her company sold more than $470 million bears and gave away thousands more to charity.

We're also looking forward to hearing Charlayne Hunter-Gault, who is currently reporting for NPR from South Africa. She served as chief national correspondent for "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," and earlier had an award-winning stint at the New York Times.

Other legendary journalists presenting and moderating at the conference include NPR's Michel Martin and CNBC's Sharon Epperson.

Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland, is another bright light on the agenda. Beyond her work serving her country, she's been a vocal human rights advocate for years. She is the founder of The Ethical Globalization Initiative.

A business ethics panel, "Return on Integriy: The New Bottom Line," promises to be fascinating. It features three whistleblowers: Lynn Brewer and Cindy Olson from Enron and Cynthia Cooper from Worldcom.

Celebrating its 30th year, the conference is the preeminent women's leadership forum in the country and annually attracts a global audience of business and professional women.

You can still register here.


Friday, April 17, 2009

A Rant - in 30 min or less

“With great power comes great responsibility.” Uncle Ben’s words ring loudly in my ears today as I watch the video of a Domino’s executive reading a statement about how horrified the company is about the “prank” committed by two idiots and the tweets heard round the business world.  The New York Times reported brand damage…I feel like the whole issue is borne of brain damage.  

“The independent owner of that store is reeling from the damage that this is caused and it’s not a surprise that this has caused a lot of damage to our brand.” 

I am not going to write a long treatise condemning or defending the social discussion around business brand issues.  I’m sure this rant adds to a long list of conversations had by others with experiences and expertise in this area.   But maybe you haven’t seen, remember the fury of the Motrin Moms?  Surveys done later found that most (gasp) MOMs weren’t offended by the ads.  45% liked the video and 15% didn't like it. 8%, said it negatively affected their feelings of the brand, 32% said it made them like the brand MORE.

Businesses NEED to be a part of the social discussion, but they don’t deserve to be BULLIED by it.  Dominos responded well, and had to.  There will likely be no long term band damage, and in fact they may ultimately benefit from their response to this event. But I guess it just continues to baffle me why these things are given so much weight in the public discourse.

As many have learned all too painfully and personally in the social world online, your actions have ramifications in the “real world” on yourself and others.  To steal a page from the mom’s handbook – treat people as you would want to be treated, or even better, if your best friend wants to jump off a bridge, does that mean you will too?  Social media is about facilitating discussion and conversation – which may lead to valid criticism and action, but we have to be careful of rapid overreaction, condemnation and crucifixion.

We love to ridicule celebrities and sports figures that use their visibility to air their politics or personal issues as if they are of a higher authority.  Well guess what.  As Twitter prepares to get a big red O sticker today, we all have been given that megaphone to some degree.  It comes with some assembly required, but the one critical piece we need – is a filter.  Decide what you want to be, understand the power you wield, and use it responsibly.  

My point?  I dunno.  I guess with an unprecedented ability to inform and affect change, why can’t the new social reality work harder to avoid the bad things about the old one?

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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Mobile Innovation on the Move in New England

Did you know that in New England alone there are more than 200 mobile technology companies? Last year, various companies included in this figure received more than $500 million in funding from VCs. These are just a few of the stats used to kick off yesterday’s Xconomy Forum, “The Future of Mobile Innovation in New England.”

While Massachusetts is well-known for being a high tech hot spot, I didn’t realize how much ground the area is gaining in the region. During one of the three panels presented at the event, CEOs from local mobile companies such as vlingo, MocoSpace, Skyhook Wireless, and Enterprise Mobile discussed the current mobile technology climate. These execs noted that there has recently been a shift in mobile technology specifically to the U.S. as well as London. Mobile technology is becoming the norm more and more each day as consumers rely on its ever-changing and evolving technology.

In conjunction with these technologies various smart phones were discussed including the iPhone, which now has more than 30,000 applications available. Having not bought a smart phone yet, this was just astounding to me. I had no idea that there was such a vast array of capabilities currently available!

Along these lines, a unique aspect of the event included a handful of “mobile bursts” which featured 2-minute demos from various local mobile companies including Bitstream, Pongr, uLocate, Jumptap and VMware. These really showcased the technology and definitely piqued the audience’s interest.

Overall, this was both an informative and interesting Xconomy event! …And you may soon see me with the next version of the iPhone…

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Nicole Wong is My Hero

The news that Nicole Wong volunteered to be laid off from the Boston Globe to save the job of a reporter who has greater needs to stay in Boston is so touching that it bears repeating. Such an act of generosity and kindness warrants a virtual pat on the back.

In her own words, from this blog post, she says:

I've volunteered to be laid off from the Boston Globe in order to save the job of a reporter who has less seniority than me and who has greater needs to stay in the Boston area due to family commitments and other obligations.

Wong has written for the Globe, the Merc and the Washington Post. She's been recognized as one of the Top 30 business reporters under age 30 by TFJR Group’s NewsBios and the Outstanding Emerging Journalist of the Year Award from the Society of Professional Journalists’ Northern California Chapter.

May the good karma bank serve her well. She just made an impressive deposit!